Workers’ strike in Soriana due to profit sharing ends in dismissals

Some workers at the retailer protested this weekend because of the profit sharing payment that they received; the company dismissed some of the dissatisfied workers.

Note published on May 29, 2024 in expansion.mx. Careers section, by Nancy Malacara, mention: Óscar de la Vega.

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It all started with a WhatsApp Group. At least 50 workers at a Soriana store in Tamaulipas asked themselves why they received around 380 pesos as profit sharing and why that concept did not even appear in their system, it said: “Payroll payment bonus.”

A worker, who asked that her name not be revealed in order to avoid retaliation, says that some of her colleagues decided to ask the Human Resources area. “This cannot be the profit sharing payment, because last year we got 2,500 pesos”, they wrote in the group.

The surprise came when they were told that the money they had received was just a bonus and that there had been no profits this year due to high losses and the lack of profits. Nevertheless, there was no official communication about zero profits, and the employees did not receive a copy of the statement filed by Soriana with the Department of Finance and Public Credit.

“We learned that stores that are in the same area gave up to 10,000 pesos as profit sharing, and they are much smaller than Soriana, In other years they had only given us 300 pesos, and nobody said anything. Last year they changed the corporate name, and they told us that we would now have better profit sharing, but they only increased the payment for last year. The name of the WhatsApp group was changed to “Strike for the pittance” and we started to get organized for closing the store on Saturday, May 25”, she said.

The woman explains that the employees that do have a union are the line employees, that is, the stockers. The other portion of the employees, the ones who started the strike, are not unionized, and are hired directly by the company. The strike started in the morning and after the hours went by, the workers were able to talk with the Sales Director for the Northeast Border Zone, Manuel Cerda.

“He agreed very formally that there would not be any retaliation against anyone, we repeated that we were demanding that, but peacefully, and that we felt that the profit sharing that was given to us was unfair. We had been trying to talk with the company managers for some time to ask for a salary adjustment, supplies such as  water and paper and for an increase in the number of people that were hired, but our complaints did not reach him. We told him everything that day”, she says.

The agreement, according to the woman, was that the petitions would be followed up on and that there would be no retaliation because of the strike. Notwithstanding this, she was dismissed on Monday, May 27. “Sometimes one is ignorant  about these issues, they told me that they would give me the severance pay as long as I did not cause any more trouble, they believe that I was the one who stirred everyone up. As far as I know, five other colleagues were dismissed after the strike.

Isolated strikes?

The interviewed woman is one of the workers dismissed by Soriana this week. The company distributed the profit sharing (PTU) payment in such a way that it created dissatisfaction among employees in several branches across different states in the country. Workers received an average of 380 pesos as PTU.

Protests began on Friday, May 24 and continued through the weekend at stores in states such as Veracruz, Puebla, Tamaulipas, and Mexico City. Videos published in TikTok show dissatisfied workers being urged to return to their work activities, and they were even threatened with being dismissed. Employees, however, argued that the profit sharing payment was too low and that the store has not reported losses.

Profit sharing, officially known as Employee Participation in Company Profits (PTU) is a right established by Article 117 of the Federal Labor Law. This benefit means that employees receive 10% of the tax profits obtained by the company in the previous year, based on their time on the job and salary.

PTU distribution takes place in May for legal entities and in June for natural persons. Legislation establishes limits for this distribution, which can reach up to three months of salary or the average of the PTU paid in the last three years, depending on which is most favorable to the worker.

Labor lawyer Óscar de la Vega explains that companies have the obligation of communicating the results of the fiscal year to the employees, even if the profits are zero. Even though this information is private and cannot be publicly disclosed, all workers have the right to see the company’s annual statement”, the lawyer emphasizes.

Article 121 of the Federal Labor Law [LFT] establishes that the company must provide the annual statement within 10 days of filing it. The tax addendums filed with the Department of Finance and Public Credit will be available to the workers at the company’s offices for 30 days.

Estefanía Rueda, labor lawyer at the Litter Law Firm mentions that the law establishes a procedure for conducting strikes due to dissatisfaction with the profits declared to the authority. First of all, employees must know whether there were profits.

Article 121 of the LFT establishes that the company must provide, within 10 days following the presentation of the statement before the authority, a copy of said statement to the employees. Additionally, the statement must be available at the company’s offices and at the Department of Finance and Public Credit, so that workers can see it.

After this, employees have 30 days for filing complaints in regard to what was filed and declared by the company. If there is a union, the union can call for work stoppages through a call for strike, but a conciliation with the Labor Court must be negotiated first.

If the strike does take place, not only unionized workers will stop providing their services, non-unionized personnel will also do this and access to the work center is forbidden to everyone. The employer can no longer make use of the resources within the facilities, nor can he market them, as he legally becomes custodian of the assets. Which means that he is only allowed to take care of them.

In the absence of a union representative, workers can organize themselves, but there is no legal mechanism that allows them to conduct a strike. Instead, workers must present their objections in regard to profit sharing before the Department of Finance and Public Credit, a legal process that rarely takes place.

“Very few workers have the knowledge of< all that is entailed in objecting in regard to profit sharing and, therefore, there are few lawsuits that take place in regard to an improper employee profit sharing. This, however, does not give the workers the right to stop the company’s operation. Organizations should maintain a clear communication with the workers in order for them to know how to proceed. Unfortunately, few companies do this”, explains Rueda.

According to the lawyers, if dissatisfactions are presented, the Department of Finance has 30 days for issuing a resolution in regard to the profits to be distributed among the workers. Once the resolution is issued, it must be abided by by both the employer and the employees. The resolution may confirm that there are no profits to be distributed, that the amount to be distributed is correct or that a higher amount must be distributed among the company’s employees.

“If access to the work center is obstructed or an unjustified work stoppage takes place, employees are subject to the rescission of their contract without responsibility for the company”, Rueda emphasizes.

Soriana’s position

In a press release, Soriana informed that the payment of profit sharing for all of its collaborators was completed on May 24. “Soriana’s financial figures are transparent and are duly registered before the Tax Administration Service (SAT). Based on this, Soriana presented before the commissions, analyzed, and approved the project of PTU distribution, ensuring the timely and proper payment of the salaries and benefits corresponding to its collaborators”, the company said.

The supermarket chain also stated that they are promptly assisting collaborators who have questions or comments in regard to their PTU payment, in the company of the corresponding union representatives.

Expansión asked the Public Relations team of the company whether they were able to reach an agreement with the workers. They answered that they have talked with the dissatisfied workers in the presence of their union leader, explaining the PTU amounts to them.

In regard to the possibility of the employees conducting any more strikes, the company answered that this will not happen, that these are now isolated questions. They also said that there would be no dismissals.Notwithstanding the above, the interviewed woman claims that, together with her, other colleagues that were present in the protests outside the stores were also dismissed.

In its press release, Soriana concludes by saying that it is a company that has received the certification of Safe and Healthy Work Environments (ELSSA) from the IMSS [Mexican Social Security Institute]. Additionally, it is certified by the Top Employers Institute and in “Equality and No Discrimination”  by the Department of Labor and Social Welfare.

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